On Monday night, my daughter wasn't feeling well. She said that her stomach hurt and so we monitored the pain for a while. It seemed to be moving, and wasn't unbearable for her. Her dinner didn't stay down much longer, but then she felt a little better. My best guess as a nurse (and mom) was, from the way it came on and her symptoms, it was a virus. She stayed home from school on Tuesday and rested the entire day. She still wasn't feeling great Tuesday night but she thought she was doing a bit better. I prepared for work the next day, and we headed for bed. At four a.m. she was sitting at my bedside. "Mom," she said. "It hurts so much. I can't sleep, I can't lay down, I can't sit up, it hurts to walk." My gut moved much quicker than my brain did at that point. There was only one thing to do and I was sure: "Get your shoes on sweetie. I'm getting dressed and we are going to the Emergency Room." She looked a little dazed. She told me later that she had thought I would give her some ibuprofen for the pain. I'm grateful that didn't cross my mind. I let her dad know we were on our way to the hospital.
It took 6
hours in the ER before we knew what was happening inside my beautiful
baby girl. Bloodwork and a urine analysis told us that she had a high
white blood cell count and so, infection but not in the bladder.
Ultrasound couldn't see the appendix, but did show a pocket of fluid on
the lower right side. Nothing abnormal with the Pelvic Ultrasound. The
Radiologist mentioned that with someone of her age, CT was the last
resort, but might be necessary. Not long afterward, she was drinking the
oral contrast and knew that she would have IV contrast as well. The CT
was fast and before we were back in our room a surgeon had been
contacted. It was her appendix. Within 12 hours from the time she was at
my bedside at four a.m., she was in recovery following her emergency
appendectomy. The surgeon came out with photos taken during the surgery.
It had ruptured, but was contained. He said a few times with pause, "It
was a very good catch." The surgeon wanted her to stay overnight in the
hospital for one more round of IV antibiotics, and so it was.
is a first for everything. In twenty years this was the first surgery
and overnight hospital stay for any of our five children. My ex-husband
and I are friends, and our love for these children binds us to each
other though our separate lives are well developed. I was glad to know,
when I knew surgery was coming, that he was on his way. He mentioned in
the next phone call that his husband was going to come, too. I cringed
inside. Something in me knew it would leave me alone, and it did. It was
painful to me in such an odd way; I recognized the pain and pushed it
away. I stayed in Nurse-Mode. I've been there before. My instincts have
made life-saving care available to many. It was a place of emotional
safety; I recognized it and stayed there. With no one to hug me and hold
my hand through the trauma of what was happening to my child, I
couldn't be anything but detached. I stayed detached through the
hospital stay, focusing on the hour to hour needs of my daughter and the
others at home. After a night at home, my daughter went to her dad's
for their regular weekend and I went to work. I recounted the story to
as many of my co-workers as were interested. On the way home from work,
however, a dam broke in me.
Almost out of nowhere, tears started
to flow, forcefully. They've been with me on and off all night and into
today. There is catharsis in it, recognizing and feeling the pain, this
pain and others I've pushed away necessarily. Acknowledging the fear,
the panic, the understanding that my child was in danger. Coping with
the knowledge that to heal she needed to be cut further, and the danger I
understood in anesthesia. Remembering the anesthesiologist assessing
her in the hallway as we spoke, starting her first round of medication
right there a few seconds before taking her away with the surgeon. It
all brings me to frame shaking tears. I've been in an operating room,
I've seen surgeries. It's hard to think of her there. There is a lot of
gratitude as well. Gratitude that she came through it without
complications and that she won't have more than a few small scars and memories of pain that is gone.
I'm grateful that I understood what needed to happen, and what was
happening to her. Gratitude for education which makes all of these
things possible, and of careful serious professionals who cared for her earnestly. Gratitude eases pain.
doing well now, still sore and moving slowly. I'm doing well, too. For
me, I'm glad everything bubbled to the surface, that it flowed over and
out. I'll need to think a little more about everything. I have seen
first hand this week the painful truth, how a mother holds her worry
close and is strong for her child. I've seen the struggle of being alone
through something like this. We had enormous support from family and
community, and yet, at the core, I was still alone. It was more painful
than I imagined and that is something I need to learn from, and not
forget. It has heightened my compassion for others in similar or far
more difficult circumstances. It will allow me to attend to others more
effectively in my everyday work, as well as grow in other ways, I
believe. There is much worth cultivating and learning from in this
experience. It feels like a door, and it will be interesting to see
where it leads.